Summer is on its way and families around Ireland are looking forward to holidays in the sun and trips to the beach or local swimming pools with their children. Unfortunately however, the combination of holidays, sunshine, water and children can be a lethal combination.
To create an awareness of the dangers to children around swimming pools, paddling pools and open water, Water Babies is launching a summer safety campaign in conjunction with Irish Water Safety which is supported by GloHealth, Ireland’s newest and most innovative health insurer.
Following an increase in the number of drownings in Ireland last year, Carol McNally from Water Babies is urging parents to be extra vigilant this summer: “The danger to children is much greater on holiday with the added exposure to swimming pools and the sea. We all look forward to getting away from it all, chilling out and letting our little ones splash around. And parents tend to relax and gain a false sense of security for children in a holiday setting, when in fact they should be more attentive than ever.”
A drowning incident can happen silently and instantly, in as little as one inch of water and in less time than it takes to answer the telephone or tend to another child. Sadly, a primary factor in cases of fatal drowning is down to the initial shock, when a toddler or child falls into the water. ‘Very young children react instantly and adversely to sudden and unexpected submersion, and are temporarily paralysed with fear,’ Carol McNally explains.
Water Babies primary goal is to teach babies vital lifesaving skills, such as swimming and holding on to the nearest solid object or turning onto their backs. Water Babies believe that a baby or toddler who is confident in the water and has been taught these simple survival skills stands a far better chance of coping with an unexpected immersion; thus avoiding the heart-wrenching tragedy of losing a child to drowning.
Carol McNally says “Over the years we’ve been incredibly proud to share the credit for having helped save a significant number of children’s lives. Water Babies have fallen into canals, swollen streams, private swimming pools – and survived, thanks to the skills they learnt with us.”
In October last year, two year old Lizzie O’Rourke from Dublin saved herself when she slipped underwater in a busy Tipperary swimming pool. Thankfully, Lizzie acted on what she had learned in her Water Babies lessons as she quickly kicked herself to the surface and put her arm out to hold onto the side. Dad Ger O’Rourke said: “”It was very scary for us at the time however Lizzie was completely calm and unfazed by the whole experience and it hasn’t affected her in the slightest. She still loves the water and swimming with Water Babies.”
Water Babies is working closely with Irish Water Safety, the statutory body established to promote water safety in Ireland, to educate parents and change behaviour to prevent drowning and water related accidents and has created a guide which is from www.waterbabies.ie for parents. By following the following guidelines parents and carers can minimize the chances of a tragic incident befalling their child this summer and all through the year:
Actively supervise young children around water
- · Parents must keep an eye on their children at all times – they can be easily distracted chatting to other parents, reading a newspaper or talking on the phone.
- · Supervising adults should be in arms reach of children under five so that if a child slips underwater, they can be pulled to safety immediately
- · The adult watching must be able to swim and not afraid to jump in the water.
- · If leaving, even momentarily, take your child or designate a known adult to supervise – never leave an older sibling in charge around water.
Be safety conscious at the poolside
- · Make sure there is a qualified lifeguard in attendance before you or your children enter a public swimming pool.
- · Check where the rescue equipment and lifeguards are.
- · Do not swim in a swimming pool which has cloudy pool water or where you can’t see the pool bottom
- · Save the local emergency numbers on your mobile phone.
Flotation devices are not life preservers
- · Toys and inflatables are often unstable and therefore a hazard.
Do not swim at beaches with large waves, a powerful undercurrent or no lifeguards
- · Find out where the lifeguards are and learn water symbols and flags indicating current beach conditions. Please follow their advice, available at Irish Water Safety’s website,www.iws.ie
- · Drinking can impair your supervision and swimming skills – especially when combined with the mid-day heat.
Learn BLS (Basic Life Support)
- · Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may provide the seconds needed to prevent death or brain damage.
Teach your children these water safety rules:
- · Always swim with others, never alone
- · Do not push or jump onto others or participate in any dangerous behaviour in a swimming pool – ie horseplay, wrestling, running, jumping and dive bombing – it might result in injury.
- · Do not dive into water. Diving into insufficient water depths can cause face, head and spinal injuries and even death
- · Know what to do in an emergency and where to get help. Call 999 or 112.
- · Make sure everybody wears a lifejacket when boating or fishing that is age and size specific and has a correctly fitting crotch strap.
Water Babies and Irish Water Safety recommend that children learn to swim from as early as possible. Water Babies operate classes in Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Louth, Galway, Sligo, Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford.